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    Hello, and welcome to my website! I'm Derek Gale, photography trainer and Fine Art photographer.

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Lens distortion? I love it!

Yesterday, Nov 11th, was my birthday and a friend gave me an optical toy as a present.  It was an insect-eye “kaleidoscope” that had a faceted lens at the front.  The lens produces distorted multiple versions of whatever is in front of it.


It’s got a quite deep wooden housing as it’s made to suit the human eye, but I wondered what would happen if I tried taking pictures through it.


The hole you look through is quite small, so a DSLR lens or even a micro 4/3rds lens is too big.  I used a zoom compact which fitted the hole nicely.  I found that the lens need to be zoomed out somewhat to avoid giving a circular image in the centre of the frame, although the circle is an interesting effect.


Zooming till the image fills the frame produces images that have a little bit of “cubism” in that the different facets show a slightly different view of the subject.  There’s a lot of colour fringing


The pattern repeat makes the images tend towards the abstract, whilst the colour fringing and edge distortion focus your eye towards the centre of the image.

It’s a fun thing, and we are, after all, supposed to have fun with our photography.  I’m looking forward to trying out more ideas…

The fires of autumn!

Here in the UK we are having a wonderful autumn (fall).  The deciduous trees are looking fabulous, with golds and oranges and reds showing strongly.  One place that is looking especially good is Westonbirt Arboretum.  It’s only about an hour from me, so last week I popped over there.


It holds the UK’s National Japanese Maple Collection, and a walk through that part of the Arboretum is like walking through a firework display.   This maple was particularly colourful.  I’ve applied an edge sharpening effect, and a corner vignette.


I was walking with a photographically-minded friend, and we were trying out some camera movement (creative camera shake!).  This image used a fisheye lens and flash.  The flash gave a sharp image overlaying a blurred image from the movement.  The extreme wide angle offered by the fisheye lens meant that the corners of the image weren’t well illuminated by the flash. Result? Instant vignette!


This is a composite of two images.  The base image is of an enclosure made from tree branches.  It’s about 15 feet across, but the fisheye lens and low angle that I used made it look much bigger, with curvy sides.  I increased the contrast so the branches were silhouetted.  The second image is of a maple leaf I was holding. I selected just the leaf, and then placed it in the hole made by the branches.  I then applied a bit of movement blur to the leaf to give the impression it was falling.

Get out there before the storms shake all the leaves off!

Street is neat!

I recently visited the lovely French city of Avignon. It’s famous for having a bridge that goes nowhere and for a Popes’ Palace with no Popes.  It does have a lot of tourists however! The Rhone river cruisers stop there, so it’s a very busy place with tour groups all over the main attractions.  It’s a great place to practice people watching and for street photography.


The old bridge is very interesting, and is best seen from a bit of a distance, such as from one of the main road bridges.  There’s quite a bit of graffiti in the city, some negative and some positive, like this uplifting message.  The weather was great with good visibility.  You can see Mont Ventoux in the background past the old bridge.  No, I did not dance on (sur), or under (sous), the old bridge, but I did sit high up on the main square with a 40-150 mm lens.


As I said there were lots of tourists, especially in the main square, the Place du Palais.  These days there were also a lot of selfie sticks!  The philosophy seems to be that unless you are in the picture people won’t believe that you were there.  This gave rise to lots of curious posturing, and almost dance-like movements.


Another aspect of this “photographic narcissism” is taking an image that shows your impact on wherever you are.  In this case it’s getting your own shadow in the frame.  I much prefer this to the selfie stick option however.


In the square there was a boy on a BMX bike showing off his tricks.  Only one person, me, seemed to be watching, but he carried on trying to get them right.  The local pigeons have seen it all before so weren’t at all interested.

One evening we went to the best AV/multi-media presentation I have ever seen.  It was called “Les Luminessences d’Avignon”, and was projected on all 4 walls of the main courtyard of the Palais du Papes.  Catch it if it’s back next year!

Avignon’s a great place for photographers.

The tallest bridge in the world!

I recently visited France, and one place I made sure to go was Millau in Aveyron.  The A75 autoroute reaches the Tarn valley here, and to get across the valley the French built a wonderful bridge. It’s more properly called a viaduct as it mostly goes over dry land.  It opened in 2004 and and is the tallest cable-stayed bridge in the world.  From the top of the tallest tower to the ground below is over 1000 feet.  It’s taller than the Eiffel Tower!  It is extremely elegant.

From the official viewpoint

There’s a viewpoint set up near the visitor centre, and there were lots of people taking lots of pictures from it – including me!  You get a good view of the bridge, but its the same as everyone else’s, and you can’t really see the valley floor to get an idea of how tall it is.

From the security fence

I went down to the security fence below the viewpoint to get a better view of the valley bottom.  I used a long lens, (300mm equivalent), to get a pattern image of 6 of the bridge towers.  You can see from the size of the trees just how big the bridge towers are.

With the hill in the foreground

On the way back to the car I noticed that the tops of the towers were showing over the hill that the viewpoint is on.  Again I used a long lens to give some perspective compression, and tried to make the size of the towers the same.  I’ve converted it to black and white, and silhouetted it somewhat, in post-processing.

From the Tarn Valley

It was a mostly cloudy day but I hoped to get a bit of sunlight on the towers.  Back in the car it was down into the valley to look at the bridge from below.  The sun came out and gave some good contrast between the white cables and the sky.  Once again a black and white treatment worked best.

From below the tallest tower

Finally it was out with the wide-angle lens from below the tallest tower.  The towers reminded me of sewing needles with the road threaded through them.  As I said, it’s a very elegant structure.

A few days later I drove over it.  It’s very high…

The people of Dismaland

I recently visited the Dismaland attraction in Weston-Super-Mare, England.  This is/was an art exhibition/”bemusement park” curated by the artist Banksy.  It was sold out within minutes of tickets being available, and I was very lucky to have been able to go twice.

I did photograph the artworks, but part of the beauty of the experience was the staff.  They had been trained to act miserable all the time.  Some were quite wonderful at it, and have a career in Customer Services ahead of them.

The staff in the park wore ears that looked very like Mickey Mouse’s, and had jackets with the word “DISMAL” on the back.  This guy was a perfect example, and encouraged everyone to have an unhappy time.

"Dismal portrait - exhibit"

There was an exhibit on a large fairground roundabout.  It was a slaughterman who had just killed one of the roundabout’s horses for meat.  He was spattered with blood and was sitting on large cardboard boxes labelled “Lasagne”.  It was a comment on the horsemeat scandal.

The people attending the show were as interesting as the exhibits.  There was a bench with a sculpture of a woman being attacked by seagulls.  There was space for visitors to sit next to it and have their picture taken.  My eye was caught by the way the woman’s hijab framed her beautiful face.

On the other side of the park there was a place you could take a selfie.  It gave people a chance to take a selfie with no background other than the white board and the words “SELFIE HOLE”.   At one point there was a queue of people waiting to do this.  It was fascinating to watch, as they could have got a selfie the other way with the park in the background.  There’s little bit of “Heeere’s Johnny!” from the film “The Shining” about this one…

Was I bemused at the “bemusement park”?  Yes, but fascinated too.  I was there at the same time as photographer Martin Parr, and would be very interested to see his images.